So I pull back out our binder and see all of Jr.’s relatives. We have Sr. born in 1849, Alexander Pope (A.P.) born in 1850 and then Florence (Flora) born in 1858. No other siblings. I looked at the clock and by the time I had found all this trail, it was 5 o’clock Tahoe time. I knew getting a hold of the folks there at the cemetery would be impossible, so instead I left a message, hoping I might get a call back.
First thing the next morning, David Osborn, the man who wrote the Duncombe story linked above, calls me back. He had the church records in front of him including Alfred’s baptismal record stating that Alfred was the son of Hugh and Adeline Whittell. Alfred was born in 1847. Well, we have another uncle! Then he listed off the baptismal dates for Sr. and A.P., but he had nothing for Flora. For all the baptisms, Hugh and Adeline Whittell along with Alfred Duncombe and his wife, Helen, were present. Well, this is certainly the right family!
With some more research, I found the entire family in the 1850 census living in Eastchester, N.Y. You can see Alfred H. Duncombe is the well-to-do farmer and head of household (according to Osborn, Duncombe had retired from the brush business at this point and was enjoying the rural life), his wife Helen, Adeline, Hugh, Alfred, George (Sr.) all living together. This certainly makes it hard for Hugh to be out making money off the Gold Rush, but he married into big money! Is that the mining he really did?
I needed to find out more about this lost uncle. It turns out that Alfred went onto become a naval officer and fought for the Union during the Civil War. Though what that entails, I am not sure yet. I found him in the listing for naval officers from 1860 to 1864 as serving in the Nevada territory and he was listed as a resident of California.
From what I can tell, Hugh and Adeline divorced sometime in the early 1860s. I found Hugh making the trip to California on the ship Connaught in 1860, which actually wrecked. I have not found exactly when Adeline remarried to John Williams. However, I do find her in the census married and with a daughter by 1880. John was a schoolteacher born in England.
I cannot really find too much on Hugh’s business activities in California until the 1870s, but then we see a lot and he is listed in the San Francisco City Directory. I can firmly assert he was living in California full-time by the 1870s.
Now here is a twist. When Alfred died in 1878, according to the records that Osborn has from the St. Paul’s cemetery in Mt. Vernon, his body was sent to New York from California for burial. So it seems the children, at least the boys for certain, all followed Hugh to California.
So of course, all of this leaves even more questions than answers. How did Adeline and Hugh, the Irish immigrant, meet? What caused the divorce? Did he get a settlement, which was very common in those times to make unwanted spouses go away from wealthy families? Clearly the boys were still close to their father. But why was Alfred’s body sent back to New York? What caused his death at a fairly young age? Osborn stated that Adeline’s children fought for the Duncombe inheritance as well, however, he was not able to get the exact names of which children through the court records (simply states “heirs”). Sr. had fought the Lunnings over that his wife’s inheritance, was this something he was good at?
What we do now know is the Adeline is most likely how Sr. was afforded a European education. She was also the one, along with Alfred Hall Duncombe, that brought Sr. into the knowledge of leading a well-to-do life. She seemed like a feisty lady, getting a divorce and remarrying in a time it was difficult for a woman to do so. Through Adeline’s side of the family, I have been able to trace some of Jr.’s ancestors back to England as far back as 1612. It also establishes Alfred as a family name for Sr. This is an interesting twist given Jr.’s ________ brother.
However, this is just the tip of the iceberg. The Whittell family saga is one of twists and turns, drama, sadness, love, loss, and never-ending source of amazing history!
Thank you for reading!